Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Treasurer, governor's office spar over budget

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BATON ROUGE - The state treasurer's office and Governor Bobby Jindal's administration continued to air disagreements Wednesday about whether the state ended its fiscal year with a budget surplus, or a budget deficit.

State Treasurer John Kennedy said that according to his office, the state ended the year $141 million in the red. That conflicts with the Division of Administration's report last week that Louisiana ended last year with a $178.5 million surplus.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols' office said Friday that $319 million was added from previous fiscal years to produce the surplus. She said the money was never spent or appropriated during the fiscal year, and that those funds are normally collected and placed into the General Fund by the treasury department. Nichols released a statement Wednesday blaming the Treasury for not including that amount in previous budgets, and instead using it for cash flow.

"It's disappointing that the Treasurer never reported these balances to the public," Nichols said.

Kennedy called the Jindal administration's methodology into question Wednesday, calling the $319 million a "secret slush fund."

"It is clear that we spent more money than we brought in last fiscal year. We have a $141 million deficit," Kennedy said. "It's also clear that the administration wants to use its own secret slush fund to resolve the problem while blaming others for the mess. "

Kennedy canceled conference calls Monday with the state's bond ratings agencies while the differences in budget numbers were worked out. The treasurer also said it's an unusual step for the governor's administration to report a budget surplus or deficit before meeting with lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, which meets this Friday.


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